Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lego City Undercover review

Up until this point, I think it is fair to say that the Lego games that began with Lego Star Wars in 2005 have not really evolved all that much.  They found a formula that worked and stuck to it, simply swapping out one high profile licence after another.  For me, they were starting to get a little stale, but then Lego Batman 2 came along and shook things up a bit by giving the characters voices and a more open ended hub area to explore.  Traveller's Tales, or rather a sub studio named TT Fusion, have taken this to it's logical conclusion and created a fully open ended world to explore in Lego City Undercover, and freed from the restrictions of a movie licence have really gone to town with the creative mission design and humorous script.   The result is the best game in the series so far and a serious contender for the best game on the Wii-U, so lets explore just what makes it so good.

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: TT Fusion
Expect to pay: £40

The premise the game sees you taking control of Chase McCain, a cop who has been away from Lego City for quite some time after credit for the arrest of master criminal Rex Fury was stolen from him by Dunby, who happens to be the chief of police at the start of the game.  Fury has escaped and the major, realising who was really responsible for busting him previously, has persuaded McCain to help with the investigation.   Tracking him down will be no easy task though and will see McCain taking on a variety of undercover roles so that he can become chummy with the criminal element in an attempt to learn where Fury may be hiding.

Graphics: 8 out of 10
The graphics in Lego City Undercover are on par with previous HD entries in the series and though they probably won't impress Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 owners, they prove that the Wii-U can indeed handle large scale open environments without coming to a stuttering crawl.  The Wii-U versions of Arkham Asylum and Assassin's Creed 3 were something of a mess in this regard and left many doubting whether the Wii-U was truly up to the task.   Thankfully, the poor performance of those launch games was down to the rush to get them ready in time and the resulting lack of optimisation.

The game does actually look quite pretty with a nice draw distance and a day/night cycle, though when the action heats up it does still drop a frame here and there.  It's nothing serious though and shouldn't mar your enjoyment of the game overall.

Sound and Music: 8 out of 10
First of all, the voice work can come across somewhat cartoonish and cheesy at times, but this is in keeping with the overall tone of game.  There are actually a few minor celebreties lending their voices to the game, such as Adam Buxton of Adam & Joe fame and Peter "voice of Darth Maul" Serafinowicz.  I could swear that the guy doing the voice of Forrest Blackwell is Matt Berry who played the sleazy Douglas Reynhom in The IT Crowd too, though I have been unable to find any conformation of this online.

Throughout the course of the story you will meet Lego versions of Morgan Freeman in his role from The Shawshank Redemption and Joe Pesci to name just a couple.  To reveal all the characters that are spoofed in this game would be to spoil it, because for adults at least that's where a lot of the appeal lies.  TT Fusion have been extremely clever in making this game appealing to both adults and children - they're likely to sell more copies after all!

The music is made up mainly of 70's style cop show funk, though there are a couple of other decent tunes in the game such as the wild west sounding music when you're rounding up a runaway pig, or the action movie inspired composition featured in the final mission and the credits sequence.  On the whole I believe the sound deserves a solid 8, it is suits the game and is well put together.

Eventually you will get access to choppers, speeding up transport across the city and opening up even more optional challenges.
Game Mechanics: 7 out of 10
The game play in Lego City Undercover is broken up into three styles (in my opinion) - open world story missions, linear story missions, and optional content.  Now the reason why the score is not as high as it could have been here is that should you decide to try and complete some of the optional mini games without advancing the story very far you will find that you simply won't be able to because you won't have the disguises and therefore the skills required to access them.  Even if for example you have the Miner disguise and the dynamite ability, you may then find out that you also need the farmer disguise afterwards and have to give up on that gold brick or other optional doodad that you're trying to unlock.  I would recommend trying to ignore the side missions in the game for as long as possible to avoid such frustration.   When you do finally complete the story mode then the whole city is the mollusk of your choosing.

There are a staggering 450 gold bricks to be earned by exploring off the beaten path and completing many different types of side quest or mini game.  These can include such tasks as rescuing poor stuck kitties with the help of the Fireman disguise, stealing cars and dropping them off as the Robber, or taking tea breaks as the Construction Worker.  In addition to the gold bricks there are also tons of hidden characters, vehicles and special red bricks to be found as well, all of which count towards your 100% completion tally. Finding and doing everything will take quite some time indeed, but doing so is great fun.  Don't rush yourself, play in short bursts regularly and you won't tire of the experience.  Play for too long and you may find it start to get a bit repetitive.

Innovation and Cleverness: 6 out of 10
The game may still play like many of the other Lego games but the combination of the open world peanut butter and the linear chocolate is quite delicious.  The fact that there is an absolute shit ton of optional stuff to do is the frosting on the... peanut butter and chocolate sandwich?  I don't think that analogy quite worked out how I wanted it to!

Value and Replayability: 8 out of 10
I don't think the scope for replaying the game is all that great, but that doesn't really matter too much to me because doing everything will take many many enjoyable hours.  I took 16 hours just to get through the story, still with the vast majority of the game in front of me.  I reckon you're looking at at least 40 hours for the whole shebang, most likely longer.

Overall: 8 out of 10
The lack of two player co op in this one is a bit of a shame, but there's still an epic game for lonely types to enjoy. The game works for adults because of all the film and parodies in the game, and for kids because they get to romp around in a world full of Lego, doing cool stuff like stealing an animatronic T-Rex skeleton from the natural history museum or exploring an arch villains base on the moon.  It's great to see that the top quality releases have finally started arriving on the Wii-U - long may the continue!

1 comment:

pes 2014 said...

It's exactly the kind of review I needed. I want something for my kid and if I can also take advantage of it, even better, I'm a huge fan of Lego since like forever and I need to try this one.

Thanks a lot man!